I've been there, you've been there or you will eventually if you are working in filming or videography at all. A client wants to shoot interviews, testimonials or talking heads by any other name. Only one little restriction, the subjects will only be available for a specific time at a hotel. Hotels are beautiful, right? This should look good with the right lighting. But wait, we have a specific hotel conference room reserved so we can shoot. Ugh... have you ever actually noticed how blah a hotel room is? I mean it's fine if it is just a wall, but it just isn't anywhere near as attractive as shooting in an all glass office on the 23 floor of downtown. There really is only so much you can do with lighting (trust me I've tried). So how does the shooter take his work to the next level when placed in such limited constraints? I'm glad you asked.
Rear-lit Photographic Backdrops
That's right, fake the entire thing. No the subject is real, but create a synthetic backdrop. Well, couldn't we just do green screen? Sure you could and we probably both have but then you start running into other limitations. The most prominent limitation is that nobody wants to pay for you to composite all that interview footage nor do they want to pay for you to rent higher quality cameras so that you have the latitude to pull a clean key. While green screen can be great, you'll often end up fighting against the limited floor space so your subject will be too close to the green screen and you'll be fighting against green screen spill. Don't forget you have to make sure your talent isn't wearing any form of green oh and glasses and transparency would be very inconvenient at this point. Maybe green screen wasn't such a good idea.
Okay, I'm interested in one of those rear-lit things you're talking about. What exactly is the advantages there? Well, you can rear light the backdrop and it begins to spill light on to your subject. You can get a reasonable shot from any quality camera (no need for 4:2:2 color space and above). You won't have to composite for green screen. You won't have to fight light spill. Your client will think that you are rather clever or at least can present themselves as rather clever to their bosses (and they are clever for hiring you).
What should you watch out for? Very dark blacks don't stay very black once light is flowing through the print so try to steer away from that. You might want to practice with your exposure settings and do a shooting test before you use this setup for a client. You'll also want to move your cameras back from the subject and backdrop, then zoom back in because it will help put both elements into a better size relationship. You'll also want to light your subject to match the environment scene you've selected for your print. It can also be hard to setup a second shot that looks reasonably like a second angle on the background. In the example below I've tried to use an image that has a bit of a curve to it and a diminishing angle. Those are the kinds of lines we're thinking about when we pick our image.
Now get out there and fake it like a pro! :
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Staying busy dreaming of synthetic film making while working as a VFX artist and scratching out time to write novels and be a dad to three.